"Getting Dressed in Edo" Graphics Gallery

text & line drawings, copyright 1997 by Lady Melisande of Hali

This is a scheme of a kimono, laid out flat. And very flat they do lie. There are no curves or lumps built into them, so that they fold up neatly for storage. basic kimono shape

This detail of a 19th century woodcut (like all the color graphics, from Japan: A History in Art) displays the back as well as the front of the average hairdo, the common obi bow (note that here the first part of the obi has been folded narrow where it wraps around the body). Note the geta both women wear instead of flat sandals.

back of obi, geta

This photo from the Japanese Tourist Bureau book on kabuki (as are all the B&W shots) clearly shows a long trailing sleeve, often referred to in Japan as a wide sleeve, and where the wrist hole is on it. See, too, how the padded hem spreads out, though in this case assisted to perfection by a stage hand in black (kokken).

wide-sleeved, padded-hem kimono


In this scene from Chushingura, nagabakama play a critical role. The young samurai has just stepped forward on one knee to pin the older man's trailing leg, preventing him from leaving. This is about the maximum length nagabakama ever reached.

This formal scene contrasts the dress of the imperial court nobles with that of the samurai. The nobles are those in full trousers with little hats tied on, and tunics whose sleeves are sewn to the body only in their lower circumference, leaving a gap through which the kimono is seen. The samurai wear hakama (the guards and sword-bearers) or nagabakama, and their clothes are marked with the big white circles of mon. You can see them from the front in the top section, and from behind in the lower section.

samurai & imperial noble costumes Back to "Getting Dressed in Edo"


This is the chayu (first-class courtesan), with her array of golden tortoiseshell pins and her obi tied in front. She wears a fringed ornament over the obi bow, as well. The chayu, on geta a foot tall, would parade through the red-light district, hand on a maid's shoulder for balance, with an entourage of pimps, servants, and young courtesans in training.

tayu costume


This detail of a painting of the women who fought in the Satsuma rebellion against the Meijii restoration (19th C.), shows many features not normally found in fashion-plate woodcuts. The women have tied back their sleeves as any samurai does before action, given a chance. Their kimono are hitched up with a soft red sash, tied in a bow on the hip, and their calves covered with red gaiters or leggings, not pants, the sort worn for travel on foot. Their hair is worn loose, showing the length to which it usually was grown, rather than gummed into a formal arrangement, and must be held off the face by white scarves.

Satsuma rebellion warriors, 19th C.

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